Lithic Choreographies: Sam Smith

Lithic Choreographies: Sam Smith

For Lithic Choreographies (2018), UK-based Australian Sam Smith has conceived a moving-image work that promotes a de-centered human experience and considers multi-species paradigms.

Shot on the Swedish island of Gotland, this work blends historical data and speculative science fictions to chronicle different chapters in the story of the island’s geological strata. Working with local people to ground the film’s investigations within the communities and landscapes of Gotland, Smith seeks to re-imagine our modes of engagement with, and contributions to, ecological assemblages.

The earth is constantly read as if it were a script needing to be interpreted, a trace of hermeneutics persistent in the age of advanced technology. JUSSI PARIKKA, from ‘A Geology of Media‘, 2015

Over two artist’s residencies on the Swedish island of Gotland, Sam Smith directed and produced Lithic Choreographies in which nature, creature, earth and human are counterpoised within deep-time. Smith chronicles the histories of the island’s geological strata over the millennia, from its bedrock of calcified equatorial marine organisms to the current soil-enriching practices of permaculture.

Incrementally the land has accumulated, been weathered by the elements and sculpted into monolithic rauk, or limestone stacks. Smith perceives the earth and its ancient stones as vibrant, imbued with reactive energies, but also vulnerable. Under the impact of human industrialisation, and its own volition, the earth’s cohesive bonds break in disruptive moments allowing for transformation.

Evoking the sublime and the contemplative, the artist presents evolution as a human preoccupation. Where the observation, qualification and containment protocols of science and culture stand in contrast to spontaneity, intuition and curiosity.

Lithic Choreographies was commissioned by International Art Space for spaced 3: north by southeast and produced in collaboration with Baltic Art Center. 

Allison Holland

Exhibition Details
ACP Project Space Gallery, 10 May – 22 June 2019

Lithic choreographies was also included in the screening program of Within Deep Timescratching the surface of the antipode, at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre May 2019.

Public Program

Live performance of E.1027, at Cement Fondu, Paddington, 15 May 2019, 6 pm to 8 pm

The ACP had the pleasure of hosting E.1027, a multi-channel video performance that fuses cinema and computer desktop. It charts the history and imagined future of E.1027 – a house built by the Modernist architect Eileen Gray at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France between 1826-1929. The artist orchestrates a digital palette of moving images, sound and text to open fissures in the singular notion of a ‘finished’ work of art. In presenting such a dynamic visual framework, Sam challenges the limitations of the single point of focus of lens-based technologies. Conceptually, the work takes an innovative perspective on, what are commonly considered, innate objects to imbue them with sentience. Entwined within the narrative of E.1027 is the voice of steel, glass and concrete – the material fabric from which the house is built.

The Works

Archive, 2019

neon light, electrical components

Lithic Choreographies 2018

4K film with sound. Duration: 50 minutes
Cast: Antoine Arquié, Ana García Barbé, Femke Blom, Alisa Dendro, Bettina Donkó, Sara Eliason, Florent Golin, Olivia Gustafsson, Hans-Ove Hellström, Kamuran Kıvanç Kaftanoğlu, Lars Kruthof, Thibault Lac, Sergii Lutchenko, Jan Luthman, Sarah Monnier, Gabriel Norberg O’Sullivan, Johanna Pietikäinen, Hanna Sjöberg, Laura Vass
Cinematography, editing, visual effects and sound design: Sam Smith
Camera assistants: Staffan Enström, Oskar Pedersen
Sound recordist: Anders Nyström
Dubbing mixer: Matt Coster for Audio Uproar
Costume and styling: Scott Ramsay-Kyle and Bronwen Marshall, with clothes by Christopher Raeburn
Research and editing assistance: Nella Aarne
The Hologram text: Nella Aarne and Sam Smith
Translation: Elaine Bolton, Hélène Gibbings, Petter Yxell
Opening narration: Guta Saga, The History of the Gotlanders
Brucebo Artist House: Artwork by Carolina Benedicks-Bruce and William Blair Bruce
Film clip: The Virgin Spring (Jungfrukällan), Ingmar Bergman, 1960
Special thanks to Helen Beltrame-Linné, Angelica Blomhage, Marco Marcon, Tom Mels, Freya Mitton, Anna Norberg, Hanna Wärff Radhe, Helena Selder, Julie Smith, Robin Smith, Dr. Gustaf Svedjemo, and Soula Veyradier
Film på Gotland: Paola Ciliberto, Sandra Fröberg and Ville Jegerhjelm
An International Art Space commission for spaced 3: north by southeast
Produced with the support of Baltic Art Center

Scans from Gotland Museum archive #1-5, 2019

colour inks on Hahnemuhle paper

About the Artist

Sam Smith is a video and performance artist and filmmaker from Sydney, currently based in the UK, whose work focusses on merging historical data with speculative fictions to probe histories embedded to natural and built environments. He has exhibited work internationally at venues including Gotland Konstmuseet; Sweden; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Plymouth Art Center, UK; Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen; Glasgow International 2016; Centro de Artes Visuais, Portugal; Australian Centre for Moving Image, Melbourne; KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Gallery of Contemporary Art, E-WERK, Freiburg; De Appel Arts Centre, Amsterdam; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London for the Artists’ Film Biennial; among others.

Live video has been central to his practice since 2013 and was born out of the desire to push the boundaries of desktop video and contemporary performance. Using his computer desktop, Smith generates a flow of imagery that is transitory, residual and hypnotic in order to present free-forming narratives that modulate with every iteration. Smith’s latest film, Lithic Choreographies, was commissioned as part of spaced 3: north by southeast, a two-year residency and production programme lead by International Art Space in collaboration with Baltic Art Center, Sweden. This fifty-minute film was selected for the prestigious Bright Future section at the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2019 and has screened at Tai Kwun Art Centre, Hong Kong, Art Gallery of Western Australia and ArtGeo Complex in Busselton, WA.

Smith holds a BFA from College of Fine Arts, UNSW and MFA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths, University of London. The monograph ‘Sam Smith: Frames of Reference’, featuring texts from Jan Verwoert and Post Brothers, was published by Broken Dimanche Press and Künstlerhaus Bethanien. He is currently the 2019 Contemporary Artist at Stourhead, UK and has previously undertaken residencies at HIAP, Helsinki, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin and Artspace, Sydney.